Letter: `Evangelists' trying to save British science

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Save British Science Society (SBS) welcomes the support of The Independent (leading article, 9 September) in making the case for increased public funding for British science, with a balance preserving an adequate share for basic research. We have been saying as much for some years and our analysis is broadly confirmed by the Dearing report: "The resources must be found to enable the UK to maintain its place as one of the world's major research centres ... [and our universities to] continue to be valued partners in research with overseas institutes."

We in SBS are not prophets of doom; we are evangelists for an enlightenment of society and government in their understanding of the role of British science, and its contributions to world culture and our economy. SBS has organised a number of symposia on how the exploitation of academic research might be improved, the most recent sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry and a major bank.

The path to discovery and application is usually tortuous, unforeseeable and unplannable. Results and techniques from unrelated fields are often crucial to advance. This must be remembered when "greater selectivity" is invoked. Selectivity will always be with us, the imagination of scientists knows no bounds, but whenever the screw on basic research is tightened, opportunities will be lost.

To "make the best of British science", and ensure it continues its record of outstanding contributions to the "global enterprise" of advancing the frontiers of understanding, we must ensure that internationally competitive levels of resource reach our best scientists and engineers, enabling them to exercise fully the originality and flair for which British science is justly renowned.


Director, Save British Science Society